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The sequel series to ‘80s fantasy fave ‘Willow’ is finally here

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 11/29/2022 Sara Stewart

Ron Howard’s “Willow” is the latest retro title up for a revisit, and not a moment too soon for fans who’ve spent decades clamoring for a sequel. The 1988 original was part of a spate of fantasy films of its time, including “Legend,” “The Last Unicorn,” “Ladyhawke,” “The Neverending Story,” “Labyrinth,” and “The Dark Crystal.” 

The original movie, a George Lucas creation directed by Howard, isn’t wildly original, plot-wise: An orphaned baby destined to overthrow an evil queen is found by an outsider who must take her on a great journey across distant lands, et cetera, et cetera. A certain “Lord of the Rings” influence is evident here (Peter Jackson’s epics hadn’t happened yet, of course, but Tolkien’s books had been published in the 1950s): The film featured a diminutive, scrappy leading character in Warwick Davis as Willow, an aspiring sorcerer who reluctantly takes on the responsibility of taking the magical baby, Elora Danan, to safety. 

© Provided by New York Post Warwick Davis in “Willow.” Lucasfilm Ltd. © Provided by New York Post Graydon (Tony Revolori), Kit (Ruby Cruz), Jade (Erin Kellyman), Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) and Dove (Ellie Bamber) in “Willow.” Lucasfilm Ltd. © Provided by New York Post Dove (Ellie Bamber) and Airk (Dempsey Bryk) in “Willow.” Lucasfilm Ltd.

But the film was a standout from others of the era for its light touch. “Willow” has a generous helping of humor mixed in with some dubious special effects and occasional plot holes. Chief among its comic assets was a young Val Kilmer as rakish outlaw Madmartigan, who falls for the evil queen’s daughter, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley, who would go on to marry Kilmer). The film even poked fun at its anticipated detractors, naming one villain General Kael, after the famed critic Pauline Kael, and a two-headed dragon, Eborsisk, after the reviewing duo Siskel and Ebert.

Now, Disney+ is finally releasing a series of the same name, set decades after the events of the film. The show revisits Davis’ Willow, with a plot that sees him teaming up with a new group on another quest. It’s a sequel that’s been hinted at, teased and talked about for years, and Davis himself has been eager to get it done: “I think it would be really interesting to explore the character when he’s older,” Davis said of his character in 2013. “Has he become a better sorcerer? What’s going on with him?” 

© Provided by New York Post Dove (Ellie Bamber), Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), Kit (Ruby Cruz), Jade (Erin Kellyman), Jørgen Kase (Simon Armstrong) and Graydon (Tony Revolori) in “Willow.” Lucasfilm Ltd. © Provided by New York Post Graydon (Tony Revolori) in “Willow.” Amanda Searle / Lucasfilm Ltd. © Provided by New York Post Airk (Dempsey Bryk)Amanda Searle / Lucasfilm Ltd.

The answer will come on Nov. 30, when the series premieres. The action begins at the kingdom of Tir Asleen, where now-Queen Sorsha (Whalley) has two nearly-adult children, Princess Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk). Madmartigan is nowhere to be seen, which hits a bittersweet note for fans: Kilmer, who has struggled with performing after receiving treatment for throat cancer, wasn’t able to be part of the filming, but series creator Jonathan Kasdan has said his character will be a key part of the plot. “The search for Madmartigan and the question of what had happened to him was right at the heart of the story we were telling,” he said at a press conference, adding that “we added this texture of a friend of Madmartigan’s who could give us some clues about his whereabouts and deepen the mystery around what happened to him.” The mysterious friend will be played by none other than Christian Slater, another ’80s icon. 

© Provided by New York Post Dove (Ellie Bamber) in “Willow.” Lucasfilm Ltd. © Provided by New York Post Kit (Ruby Cruz), Jade (Erin Kellyman), Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) and Graydon (Tony Revolori) in “Willow.” Amanda Searle / Lucasfilm Ltd. © Provided by New York Post Kit (Ruby Cruz) in “Willow.” Lucasfilm Ltd.

The new “Willow” also features actor Amar Chada-Patel (“The Wheel of Time”) as Boorman, a roguish, wisecracking character of the Madmartigan sort. He’s released from prison by Queen Sorsha to join the quest to rescue Prince Airk, who’s been captured by agents of a new evil threatening Tir Asleen. Chada-Patel and Tony Revolori (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home”) provide much of the comic relief that makes “Willow” stand out from current fantasy peers like “The Rings of Power” and “House of the Dragon.” They’re joined by Ellie Bamber as Dove, a kitchen maid in love with Airk, and Erin Kellyman as Jade, Kit’s best friend and an aspiring soldier. 

But where is prophesied empress Elora Danan, now grown up? That’s the question looming over all, and we’re not telling: You’ll have to watch “Willow” to find out.

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